It’s always fun to announce a new season for the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance — the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Opera and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.
But has there ever been a time when the annual announcement came with such relief and joy? The thought of having dancers, musicians and singers on stage at the VIctoria Theatre and Schuster Center is something to celebrate.
The 2021-22 season lineup, traditionally announced on New Year’s Eve, was released on July 4 and it’s something to celebrate — chock full of entertaining and varied offerings. In addition to the Opera, Ballet and DPO Masterworks season, the Philharmonic offers a SuperPops, Rockin’ Orchestra and Family Series. Also slated are two special DPAA events that bring together all three arts groups — Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 15 and the annual New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31.
Highlights range from a world premiere opera focused on Katharine Wright, sister of the Wright brothers, to a sesquicentennial anniversary celebration of the birth of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the acclaimed poet born in Dayton. The always popular “Nutcracker” will return and the whole family can enjoy “Bugs,” featuring music and dance for creepy and crawling insects ... but, gratefully, no cicadas. (Whew!)
If arts audiences are revved up about all of this, imagine what a thrill it is for the performers! We checked in with the three artistic directors, including the Dayton Opera’s Kathleen Clawson who officially joined the organization last month.
“It sure has been a crazy year-and-a-quarter since everything shut down last March,” says DPO conductor and artistic director Neal Gittleman. “Looking back on it I’m so proud of everyone — performers, staff, volunteers and audience — for refusing to give up and allowing us to keep getting music, opera and dance to our folks.”
The new season is being dubbed “We’re Back and Better than Ever!”
What’s in store for the Philharmonic
“I know the DPO musicians will be so happy to be back to playing for full audiences again, and, especially, to play in a normal stage setup,” says Gittleman who is thrilled to be back in his usual summer routine — studying scores to be ready for the new season when it rolls around.
Gittleman says his orchestra’s tagline for the new season could be “Make-up.” That’s because many of the performances had to be canceled because of the pandemic. “Even though the Beethoven Sestercentennial technically ended on December 16, 2020, we’ll still be celebrating Ludwig van’s 250th anniversary, with three more installments of our Beethoven’s Symphonies Cycle, and they’re three of the big ones: Three, Seven, and Nine,” says Gittleman. “Come the 2022-23 season, we’ll just need to play the Second Symphony to complete the cycle.”
The orchestra will also return to one of the planned themes for 2020-21, playing music of several female composers including Jennifer Jolley, Reena Esmail, Stella Sung and Clara Schumann. Many of those guest artists originally slated for the SuperPops and Rockin’ Orchestra Series are in the new lineup as well. Those being honored include Dayton funk, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, the Rat Pack, Elton John, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
“We’re all so grateful to our audience for sticking with us, and so happy that we’ll be able to welcome them back en masse to the Schuster Center,” says Gittleman. “So maybe the best tagline is ‘The Grateful Season.’”
What’s in store for the Opera
The new artistic director of the Dayton Opera, Kathleen Clawson, is familiar to Dayton audiences; she’s come to town to direct more than 15 operas over the years.
She’ll open the season with Gaetano Donizetti’s lighthearted romantic comedy, “The Elixir of Love.”
“Don’t we all need to laugh and enjoy an evening of glorious music where love triumphs?” asks Clawson. “It’s a dazzling bel canto jewel filled with some of opera’s greatest music.”
This will be a sentimental production for Clawson. “It was the first piece I directed for Dayton Opera in 2009 and seemed a fitting way to begin my tenure as artistic director of the company.”
In February the opera will present the world premiere of “Finding Wright,” the first ever full-length opera commissioned for and presented by Dayton Opera.
“While visiting Woodland Cemetery with my good friend, the librettist Andrea Fellows Fineberg, we discovered, between the graves of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the grave of their sister Katharine Wright,” Clawson says. " We quickly looked up her story, which is fascinating, and quite operatic.”
Her predecessor, Thomas Bankston, agreed and commissioned an opera to be written for the 60th anniversary of Dayton Opera. “With music by award-winning composer Laura Kaminsky, I am proud to lead a team of women artists for the premiere of this amazing work,” says Clawson.
Countertenor John Holiday, fresh from his Metropolitan Opera debut, will be featured in April. “John is a good friend that I’ve known since he was an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera,” says Clawson.
Many may have seen Holiday last year as a recent finalist of NBC’s ”The Voice.” He’ll present a special program entitled “The John Holiday Experience,” which bridges the gap between classical and contemporary, jazz, and soul music, Clawson says.
The opera season closes in May with “Epic Opera,” a concert showcasing some of the most thrilling moments in opera. “I have so missed having the Dayton Opera Chorus onstage with us this past year,” says Clawson. “This concert, led by Neal Gittleman, celebrates the return to the stage of the Dayton Opera Chorus, who will be joined by the Dayton Philharmonic Chorus, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in a program of exhilarating overtures, beloved arias, stirring ensembles, and favorite opera choruses.”
What’s in store for the Ballet
Dayton Ballet’s artistic director Karen Russo Burke admits it’s been quite a journey to return to the stage, but she and her dancers are grateful to perform once again. They’re all excited about the upcoming season that’s been planned.
“We will be presenting ‘The Great Gatsby’ again at the Victoria Theatre with guests Jamie Cordes as the narrator Nick Carraway and Felita LaRock as the jazz singer,” says Burke. “Dayton Ballet II, as well as members from the school and the fantastic music by Billy Novick and the Blue Syncopators, will accompany the professional dancers of the Dayton Ballet.”
The company also will present new works from choreographers Gerald Arpino, Ma Cong and Penny Saunders in the “Light and Dark” performances and Sapphire celebrations. And, of course, the company’s beloved “Nutcracker” will be back.
“We are so ever grateful to be moving forward again,” says Burke, “and we are overjoyed to perform for our community!”
Our community is overjoyed as well.
How to get tickets
Season ticket subscription packages may be ordered by calling the box office at (937) 228-3630, by visiting the DPAA website at www.daytonperformingarts.org, or by visiting the box office at the Schuster Center at 1 W. 2nd St., Dayton.
Subscribers to a DPAA series get the best seats and save up to 25 percent off base ticket prices. Discounts are available for seniors, students, educators and military.
Subscriber ticket packages for all DPAA traditional series go on sale on Tuesday, July 6. The single-ticket on-sale date is currently scheduled for Aug. 31.
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